Anniversaries give us occasion to reflect—reflect on our early days and where we are today. At Redeemer Christian High School, we are celebrating 40 years of God’s faithfulness on April 2, 2016 at our annual dinner auction. Established in 1975-1976, our school began as The Community for Christian Learning. We had 11 students.
According to an original staff member, Alta MacFie, “we were a small tight-knit group when the school began. At the school meeting, decisions were made together as a community of students and teachers.” She goes on to say, “that teachers felt uncomfortable being called Mr./Mrs./Ms. and the close relationship we had with students merited a first name basis.” Former Board member Margaret VanDyk, remembers those days well. She recalls that we didn’t have a principal, but a head teacher, students were permitted to use first names, and staff were paid according to need.
By the time, long-time staff member, Vincent Marquis arrived on the scene in August of 1980, things began to change. “The year I began, we shifted from a non-accredited, non-inspected (Ministry of Education) school to an inspected, accredited school.” There was much work to revise and revamp the curriculum, teachers needed to have a Bachelor of Education and eventually Ontario Teaching Certificates. “By revamping the curriculum, I don’t mean we gave up our Christian worldview, but the courses had to be designed according to Ministry of Education guidelines.” In Mr. Marquis’ first year, there were four full-time staff and 29 students.
Another significant change, was to adopt a regular pay-scale and introduce a benefit plan. “This was absolutely necessary to attract qualified teaching staff,” says Marquis. “Professional development and ongoing training became a settled expectation and standard.”
Throughout the years, our school moved locations five times. MacFie remembers how informally our school was housed at All Saints Lutheran Church with “dividers between classrooms” and the small church school rooms at Westboro Baptist Church. “We finally got our own building in 1997, and it was absolutely amazing for us,” declares Marquis. We had approximately 100 students when we moved to Colonnade.
According to Marquis, “the school’s early years were very different from the well-established, professional institution RCHS has become.” Today, Redeemer has a vibrant student body of about 150 students and 23 full and part-time staff. And thanks to a capital campaign in 2013, our facility includes dedicated science rooms, a music and drama studio, and a state-of-the-art gymnasium.
Three months ago, Redeemer was inspected by the Ontario Ministry of Education. According to principal Paul Oueis, “the assigned inspector was unrestrained in her praise of the quality of teaching and learning at Redeemer using such terms as extraordinary and phenomenal.”
Some things haven’t changed for Redeemer. For MacFie, “the same caring for the wellbeing of the students has remained as has the Christ-centred teaching and the critical analysis of world views at play in topics under discussion.” Marquis acknowledges the dedication of the community to keep the school alive and thriving, through thick and thin. “I feel blessed to have had the privilege of working with some great Christian colleagues in a special ministry to the precious kids the parents send to the school,” he says.
“God’s faithfulness is a constant,” says Marquis. “It’s not always easy to see when you are going through the tough stuff, but looking back, you see it has been there, both personally and with the school.”
Staff photo circa 1980
From left to right: Bob Moore, Derek Maggs (principal), Alta Sickle (MacFie), and Vincent Marquis